Esau the wild one
Favored by father Isaac
Gives up his birthright

Jacob the mild one
Favored by mother Rivkah
Obtains the birthright


Gen 25:27-34
Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the outdoors; but Jacob was a mild man who stayed in camp. Isaac favored Esau because he had a taste for game; but Rebekah favored Jacob Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the open, famished. And Esau said to Jacob, “Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, for I am famished” … Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” And Esau said, “I am at the point of death, so of what use is my birthright to me?” But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Jacob then gave Esau bread and lentil stew; he ate and drank, and he rose and went away. Thus did Esau spurn the birthright

Did Jacob take advantage of the situation to “steal” the birthright? We don’t want to believe our patriarch would act so underhandedly, despite that all of the characters in the Bible stories have their shortcomings. So commentators look for explanations in the text to view our ancestors in the best light.

The last words of the passage cited above provide one clue that we can use to justify Jacob obtaining the birthright in this manner. It wasn’t just that Esau was hungry, he didn’t consider the birthright important – another translation I found was “mock” rather than “spurn”. It was so worthless to Esau he was willing to part with it for a pot of beans.

In this week’s Ten Minutes of Torah, Rabbi Edwin C. Goldberg wonders what we might consider too valuable to sell at any price.


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